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tv   Vegas The Story of Sin City  CNN  February 25, 2024 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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but john edwards couldn't be that. he was who he was for rielle hunter, who he was for elizabeth edwards, and then it was who he was for the american public. and that's the paradox inherent to politics by design. individual human beings have to be the vessels for all our lofty ideals, and yet to this day, we keep on investing and believing in these candidates for higher office, hoping, praying that they do not break our hearts, because maybe, just maybe, this one is different. i do think a lot of his campaign staffers were diehard believe-in-the-cause fans, and a lot of them do work in the white house right now. that's his legacy, and i think that puts a nice bow on a story that is a big ol' mess.
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narrator: with nothing more than a few miners and railroad men trying to scratch out a living >> mess >> nothing more than a few minor railroad man tried to scratch out a living out this harsh on yielding a bat a desk. but even amid the hardship, there were glimmers of what this city would one day become the ultimate collation to work, las vegas, nevada. >> vegas, as always, marketed itself on its naughtiness. of course, within legal constraints. well, sometimes illegal >> bill, one of those gambling better than organized crime it's really vegas became free entertainment capital two of the world, say as long they're all here together when we had a drink >> the content of that town, what it has to offer >> you can't beat that every song will become visual shelf.
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every song will be like an adventure, like an experience >> to be a headliner was vegas. that's what i wanted to do
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>> whether you're driving into laws or you're flying into los >> you see it. >> it glow >> when i think about the las vegas first day to come to my mind isn't a 50 sammy davis, frank and dean martin. i just loved it. i just seem like a great playground. >> back in the '70s elvis banners and elvis spotlights >> las vegas over each of its historical eras is like a giant experimental laboratory for human desire >> but in the early 30s, las vegas was very different town than it is today
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>> very of the new york stock exchange millions of dollars. yet it had the fraction of riot but a gamble from the cradle to the grade wide open gambling the man who pledges his money on the turn of a wheel the satisfaction of knowing who's got to money >> las vegas was incredibly lucky when the rest of the country was sinking away in the depression las vegas was bright lights and fun. >> in 1931, here was a place where money was no object. you could make money really fast. you could lose it really fast las vegas became pin escape from the depths of despair from those days. >> after the country had been through world war i, they'd been with the boom of the '20s and suddenly that goes away in the 1930s, the united states is facing a real question of
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identity. in vegas, they have a triple threat of positive factors that attract business and tourists number one, you've got hoover dam >> build a dam in the wilderness in the world will beat a path to it >> number two, you got the quickie divorce bill when the explosion of a marriage leads to divorce, the next stop, maybe nevada i've played long associated with easy divorce of course, number three, you got legalized gambling, which makes nevada the only place in the united states where are you can play casino style games legally >> without gambling, las vegas would have not been born gambling to las vegas is like water to the earth gambling put las vegas on the map >> the potential to build this city into a gambling mecca, pique the interest of the crime syndicates so the launch of the
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gambling industry and las vegas essentially it was the launch of mob involvement in las vegas to smash gambling, sharpe, new york mayor laguardia, that big gang. thank notice that they have to keep away from new york from now on >> in 1945, you saw the arrival of the new york mob represented by meyer lansky and his associate bugs is siegel. and they plot their money into buying the l cortez hotel and they used it almost like a training ground. >> billy wilkerson, who was the publisher of the hollywood reporter, was already building the flamingo hotel been siegel, basically muscled wilkerson out of the picture and ended up finishing the flamingo so with money from meyer lansky, when the flamingo opened in 1946,
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they had spent $6 to build this hotel. and of that, their stories that segal stolen million benjamin seagulls financier's, let's just call them that were convinced he was pocketing the money >> june 20, 1947, siegel was assassinated in beverly hills, california and not 15 minutes later, other people are at the flamingo saying we're in charge bugs these out. we're in and fomenko becomes one of the iconic hotels on the strip and then it was full speed ahead for the model the flamingo hotel was the first hotel to really go after big, big name entertainment. >> the >> mob people loved mixing with stars. and so they would shell out the money for them. >> you know, i walked out with a slot machine and i put 11 on a flat. and what do you think
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came up? manager >> they got jimmy durante to open the hotel. they had martin and louis, they had the biggest entertainers in america they entertainment in the '50s and las vegas is centralized were in la, you might have >> someone play one time las vegas had them coming in back-to-back you can see four people at one time in the same week the strategy for the hotel owners >> was if they had the biggest star who could fill that room night after night, then once that show was over, people would you gamble? >> big time entertainers would make more money for the casino? that would mean you could pay more money for the best entertainers. so it was a perfect business model >> there was a pretty positive
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vibe in las vegas about the mob they were people who will cared about las vegas. >> they're very much involved in the community. it was just the casinos. they were invested in, the churches, schools real estate. >> they >> made that a functioning safe town you could leave your doors open >> i look back on it now and i go, boy, we're we lucky. we can walk around this town and nobody would touch us they really paid attention to cheating and everything i remember being at the riviera one time when they pulled this guy off the blackjack table, took him in the back of the room and they broke all these fingers. i don't think he ever achieved it again >> in mob circles, las vegas became known as an open city. this is a place where there were no territory's. >> you >> had new york and chicago and cleveland in kansas city and all these different syndicates had investments here hi,
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everybody could win in las vegas. >> if you're outside nevada, you had to pay somebody off to operate here >> its business >> las vegas was essentially the mob's atl elliott spitzer blazed a trail that had >> him in spitting distance of the white house right up until the moment he set himself on fire and crusading governor by day, wanted desperately, i think to be present in the united states client number nine by night, this guy who was a crusader against human sex trafficking is a customer. here's how the saga of eliot spitzer really went down >> this was a turning point in american government, united states of scandal with jake tapper. new episode next sunday at night on cnn, sorry, body for knowing about actives. but giving 100% of them to my face, the fear no more body get active serums with hyaluronic acid that quench vitamin c that
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embezzlement, robbery, and even murder. give me a set of blue, george. schwartz: some people came to las vegas and were absolutely mortified by seeing gambling going on legitimately and openly. and they said, "oh, my god. how can they allow this to happen?" then they found out just how much money you could make gambling. and suddenly, it didn't seem like that big a sin. of course, the real money to be made in gambling is never on the gambler's side of the table. it's from the house's side. and by design, a lot of casinos back in the '50s and '60s were engineered so you could lose track of time and just be in your gambling zone. ooh, i'm happy again. you never see clocks. you never see windows. you're supposed to lose yourself. that's the secret in it. zook: billy wilkerson, the original brains behind the flamingo -- he was an inveterate gambler. and he knew if you keep them at the table long enough,
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they might win a little, but ultimately, they'll lose more than they won. i had the time of my life. man: is this the first time you've gambled? that's right! this guy, i saw him lose $31,000. and he turned around, and he said, "can't beat 'em tonight. i guess i'll get a good night's sleep and try tomorrow." and i thought to myself, "this guy just lost $30,000, and he's gonna go to bed." you know [chuckles] i would go to the top of the hotel and jump off. schwartz: the other thing about vegas casinos then is if you were gambling, you were pretty much guaranteed a drink whenever you were thirsty. alcohol lowers inhibitions. so it's actually pretty smart to give people free alcohol if you need them to gamble more. ♪ announcer: las vegas, nevada -- the entertainment and fun capital of the world, where the clock never stops and the doors never close. ♪
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vegas in the '50s was part of the post-war optimism and prosperity. ♪ we had come through world war ii, the middle class was booming, wages were rising, people could take vacations again. white: las vegas becomes a city of the future. it's a city that is innovative. it's an adult disneyland that starts before walt disney gets started. ♪ green: the tourist population is certainly overwhelmingly white. they're middle class, and they're coming from just about everywhere. they're coming from big cities. they're coming from small towns. they're being attracted at this point, in part, by efforts in las vegas to reach tourists. announcer: well, the primary purpose of the big casinos is gambling.
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and all the rest is no more than just setting the mood. but in the competition of the open marketplace, the big owners have entered into a new kind of sweepstake to determine who can pay the most money for the biggest-name talent. newton: all of their advertisement was based on the entertainment. that's how the casinos branded themselves. it was competitive, very competitive, in terms of performer against performer. ♪ zoglin: vegas hotels were very smart about marketing, particularly the sands. green: the sands opened in 1952. and the ownership group included jack entratter, who had been at the copacabana in new york. and las vegas already had big-name entertainers performing here. but entratter had more entertainment connections from the copa. entratter sidney: i'll never forget that night i met jack entratter.
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he was tall and had prematurely gray hair and beautiful blue eyes. he just had a way of knowing real talent. and if you were booked at the sands, you could work 52 weeks a year. everybody else would book you. announcer: and starring jerry lewis! [ applause ] zoglin: entratter brought a real new york glamour and sophistication and connections that vegas really hadn't quite seen before. he was close with frank sinatra and dean martin, and jerry lewis, nat king cole. ♪ and this great, big world will be divine, little girl ♪ ♪ when you're mine, all mine ♪ zoglin: they were all at the sands, so the sands became known as the premier spot for top-name entertainment. announcer: nowhere else in the world is there such a concentration of famous entertainers. yes, indeed. nighttime is always fun time in las vegas.
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♪ white: this didn't just happen. it was designed this way. we're bringing people here from all over the world, all over the country, with advertising. that's what we do. [ laughs ] schwartz: by 1955, las vegas really becomes the place where people in america went to party. they elope. they come out to get married. they come out to gamble. they come out to see shows. where are you gonna get that? ♪
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xfinity gives you reliable wifi with wall-to-wall coverage on all your devices, even when everyone is online. maybe we'll even get married one day. i wonder what i will be doing? probably still living here with mom and dad. fast reliable speeds right where you need them. that's wall-to-wall wifi on the xfinity 10g network. ♪ we have stepped up our camera speed to catch the picture of a great entertainer whose friends say it just kills him to sit still. sammy davis jr. is not just a star -- he's a meteor. charles: sammy davis is the best performer i saw live, and i've said it ever since i first saw him, to this day. you never wanted him to leave. you never wanted to walk off stage 'cause he was just so good. binion: sammy davis jr. came here with the will mastin trio, which was his father and his uncle, and he was just a kid. this is my dad, sam davis sr., and my uncle, will mastin.
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he could do so many things -- sing, do impressions, play drums. ♪ they used to label him as the greatest of them all. and away we go! mckee: being in the show every night and watching sammy perform was incredible. the energy level. he would go on for two and a half, three hours. it was all i could do to keep up with sammy back then, and i was half his age. ♪ [ applause ] geran: one time, he went to the movie theater downtown. he had no idea there was a law that you have to sit in a certain area. and so, next you know, he's being slapped and dragged down the hallway and told, "you need to go and be in your place." and that was something that he really never accepted. sammy davis always rebelled against las vegas' segregation.
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announcer: hey, he's smoking a white cigarette. [ laughter ] i tried smoking them brown ones and got arrested. you know how it is. white: las vegas was the entertainment capital of the world. but african americans who lived here and worked here could not enjoy that entertainment. mckee: i got to vegas, and i noticed that there were no black doormen, there were no black dealers. there were no black people in the casino, gambling. white: the casinos in the 1940s employed african americans only in the back of the house. they could not enter the front of the house. at the same time, we're talking about entertainment starting in a great way here. people like nat king cole and pearl bailey and johnny mathis and the will mastin trio... ...they are coming here to entertain,
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but they cannot go into the front door of the casino. trying to get an opportunity, trying to fight your way in, and hearing day after day, "i'm sorry. we don't book colored acts. sorry, colored people can't stay here," and it was just -- you know, you just become so mad that you just say, "well, what is this?" charles: racism was part of life in america. and vegas was the mississippi of the west back in those days. ♪ but that's the way it was. we didn't think anything about it. we'd just maneuver through it. you take it one day at a time, and you did what you could do. ♪ back then, there were no black girls in any of the lines, production shows that i was in on the strip. and everyone that hired me for any show, i was always put the question, "you know, you have such a beautiful color. what are you?"
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immediately, i knew... i could not say i'm black. i would come up with anything else other than black, because if i was black, i was out. i wasn't gonna get the job, period. i carried on this facade for a while, until i met sammy davis. sammy knew that i was of mixed blood, and he protected me through a lot of the stuff that was happening. he'd say, "don't ever do this. don't ever leave the casino with someone, and don't --" you know, just simple little things. vegas was changing and shifting, but still, it was very small and very slow. ♪ i was a queen to him ♪ ♪ who's gonna make me play now? ♪ geran: entertainers could play in major hotels, but you couldn't stay. the only black entertainer that was able to stay at that time was lena horne.
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and it was said that she was able to pass the paper bag test, where if you're darker than the paper bag then you're considered an undesirable to stay among whites. ♪ too good ♪ shore: certain performers who took a stand and caused the wheel to turn -- lena horne, who was... yes. ...a tremendous draw in vegas, who literally, because she could not -- because was treated like a, you know -- like a... her daughter went into the pool, and they drained it. she went swimming in the pool, and they drained the pool. white: in 1955, we had the first integrated hotel-casino that could rival any of those on the las vegas strip. and it was called the moulin rouge. crowd: alright! ♪ white: a lot of people think the moulin rouge was black-owned.
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it was not. it was owned by whites who knew that african americans were earning money now and that they wanted to spend it. the moulin rouge was themed after the moulin rouge in paris, and you had some of the best entertainment that everybody wanted to enjoy, with the first line of black dancers. ♪ geran: we thought that, for the first time, maybe las vegas wants to become integrated, and it started to get a lot of attention all over the world. but it was only open for six months. that was very perplexing because everybody wanted to go there. everybody went there after hours. all the entertainers went there. it was the place to be at night. ♪ white: there are lots of reasons that people give
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why the moulin rouge closed. the authentic reason is probably that some of the subcontractors were not paid. in 1955, there was a downturn in the economy. so, it was not just the moulin rouge that was in trouble. the dunes was in trouble and the royal nevada. but other hotels on the las vegas strip propped up the royal nevada and the dunes, allowing them to stay in business. no one helped the moulin rouge because the competition was just too keen. so, at this point we have progress, but we still have a long ways to go. davis: i've come to realize that if the people who hate, see, the bigots, gee, if they could concentrate a half of that time on discovering a cure for cancer,
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we would have had it discovered, you know, 20 years ago. but they spend -- and it becomes [panting] like this with them. and it's this frightening -- the world over. look, i don't want to add to that. that's one group i do not want to belong to.
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the economy is simply not working for millions of hard working families. they're working harder than ever and they still can't make enough to get by to afford food and medicine to even keep a roof over their heads. we need to build more housing that's truly affordable.
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we need to address this terrible epidemic of homelessness. we need to invest in good paying jobs, union jobs and investments in our future. this, this is why i'm running for the us senate. i'm adam schiff and i approve this message. this election is about who shares your values. let me share mine. i'm the only candidate with a record of taking on maga republicans, and winning. when they overturned roe, i secured abortion rights in our state constitution. when trump attacked our lgbtq and asian neighbors, i strengthened our hate crime laws. i fought for all of us struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. i'm evan low, and i approve this message for all of our shared values. there's one thing that tops two of a kind in our business,
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and that is one of a kind. a performer that is so unique and outstanding that there's no one else quite like him. we have such a star of such magnitude with us tonight. ladies and gentlemen, the inimitable liberace. ♪ mcbride: there had been entertainers in las vegas since the '30s when they started building out on the strip. but liberace was a whole different kind of performer. zoglin: liberace began entertaining in vegas in the 1940s when he wasn't very well known. but in the early '50s, liberace had become a big tv star. [ applause ] thank you, ladies and gentlemen. thank you very much. thank you for your wonderful welcome. ♪
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i first came here when there were only two hotels on the famous las vegas strip, and i feel like i've grown up with the town and i'm sort of a pioneer. mcbride: liberace opened the riviera in 1955. and in order to get him there, they paid that man $50,000 a week. and in the casinos, they made that money back, over and over. and what was good for one casino was good for all. it was one of the wisest moves that the mob ever made, in bringing bigger-than-life entertainment to las vegas. ♪ liberace: entertainment here in vegas has always been of the glittery type. the tremendous electric signs and the glamour of the hotels
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and the costumes i wear and everything were more or less stimulated by that. [ applause ] aren't you glad you came? [ laughter ] oh, lee? oh, he was wonderful. lee invented himself. crystals and candelabras, and it was make-believe, fun. ♪ newton: liberace took the las vegas image. he would drive cars on stage. he would have lighting that nobody else had. what he contributed to the town was enormous. liberace was probably the first true showman, in the most extravagant and broadest sense of the word. he gave a show, and that set a standard for las vegas.
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announcer: variety, the entertainment industry magazine, calls liberace the number-one draw in las vegas. the man has become an institution. the public expects the ultimate liberace, the indulgence of the wildest dreams, and he gives it to them. barbutti: he'd walk out in a full-length mink coat. it had to be worth 60, 70 grand. or he'd ride out in a rolls-royce, wearing the mink coat. and he'd walk up to the mic and say, "i did not wear this not to be noticed." my clothes may look funny, but they're making me the money! little: i remember liberace as a man with a great sense of humor. one time, i went into the makeup room, and he turned around and he said, "oh, mr. little, it's just a thrill to see you." and he reached up and took his wig and pulled it off and then took a bow. [ laughs ] it's been a wonderful evening being with all of you,
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and before i say good night, i'd like to sing one little song that i used to sing at the close of all my television shows back in the 1950s. ♪ ♪ i'll be seeing you ♪ [ applause ] ♪ in all the old familiar places ♪ ♪ that this heart of mine embraces all day through ♪ barbutti: elvis was the biggest name in show business at that time, but there's people who don't know that elvis came here earlier and bombed. it was terrible. he didn't draw any people. weatherford: it was 1956. this was elvis' big year. he's just taking the country by storm. he couldn't be stopped, and during his meteoric rise, he comes to las vegas. presley: ♪ well, since my baby left me ♪
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♪ well, i found a new place to dwell ♪ ♪ well, it's down at the end of lonely street ♪ ♪ at heartbreak hotel where i'll be ♪ schilling: elvis loved vegas, but he was ahead of his time. the vegas audience was an older audience. they were not that familiar with elvis and early rock 'n' roll. zoglin: he was packing audiences across the south and concerts all over, but in las vegas, this rock 'n' roll kind of stuff was really alien to the traditional middle-aged nightclub audience. schumacher: even the local critics savaged him. like, "what is this? this is not las vegas entertainment." zoglin: colonel parker, his manager, went over to see liberace who was playing up the street at the riviera, and he said, "my kid, elvis, he's over at the frontier hotel. he's not doing very well. it would really help if you'd come by and give him some help." and liberace, being a very generous performer, did.
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he went over, saw his show, took some publicity shots with him, and he gave him one piece of advice. he said, "elvis, your show needs more glitz." and when elvis was doing a concert a few months later, he was wearing a gold lamé jacket, very similar to the one that liberace wore in las vegas. [ camera shutter clicks ] elvis loved las vegas. he loved the nightlife. he loved seeing the other entertainers. ♪ ♪ you ain't nothing but a hound dog, hound dog ♪ he saw a group called freddie bell and the bellboys who were doing an old big mama thornton song called "hound dog." ♪ well, now, you never caught a rabbit ♪ ♪ you ain't no friend of mine ♪ zoglin: elvis loved the song and put it into his act, and so that became, of course, elvis' signature hit. so, elvis got a lot out of las vegas. ♪ well, you ain't never caught a rabbit ♪ ♪ and you ain't no friend of mine ♪
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♪ gillis: i witnessed segregation without knowing it when i was working opposite ella fitzgerald.
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ella says to me, "will you take me over to see pearl bailey?" ♪ well, when you smiled at me ♪ ♪ i heard a melody ♪ ♪ it haunted me from the start ♪ "okay." it meant nothing to me. i walked into the front door with ella. we walked into the casino, walked into the dining room. and afterwards, we walked through the front door again. that's when ella turned to me and says, "you're my friend for life." i says, "i thought i was your friend for life. what do you mean by that?" she says, "you took me through the front door." i had no idea that i made history that night with her. charles: nat king cole was the guy given credit for actually being the first guy to integrate the showrooms. ♪ i can't forget the night i met you ♪
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charles: the story that i've heard is that nat king cole would come over and see the "lido de paris" show. and so, when they were here, he tried to come in and see them, and they told him he could sit on the side of the stage and watch. and so the "lido" people said, "no show unless -- if nat king cole is not sitting front and center, we're not gonna do a show." i have been...asked by a lot of people why do i play to segregated audiences. but, you see, in my profession, i'm an entertainer, and i think in playing to all types of audiences and particularly being a negro performer when you're having white as well as colored audiences, you're helping a lot to bring people together. schwartz: before they desegregated in 1960, the casino owners said, "well, i'm not prejudiced, but many of my customers are. and if we desegregate, it'll be bad for business." the high rollers were from the south.
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people running casinos didn't want to upset them or force things on them. charles: the hotel people were afraid that the rest of the audience would walk out if they saw a black guy sitting in the front. the almighty dollar is what rules everything. but they loved nat king cole. people were there taking pictures, signing autographs. so, it was another one of those milestones where they broke that racial barrier. mckee: back then, there was a section of vegas where black people stayed and lived. not in the hotels on the strip. the west side was the black community back in those days. sammy davis had to stay in a person's house when he came here. until sinatra and dean martin says, "no." why do you idolize sinatra so?
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i can only explain to you that if i'm with a group of white people and i walk into a place with them and someone says something -- somebody might say, "come on, sam, let's leave." it might be me. i'm usually the first guy that senses it and says, "i don't wanna go in" or "let's leave." frank wouldn't do this. now, it might be -- the right, proper way is probably to get up and walk out, but frank says, "no, we got to find out why this is." yeah. and he pursues it. mckee: i don't doubt for one minute that frank sinatra helped dramatically to get sammy to be the first person to stay in the hotel. but if sammy wasn't who he was, the talent that he had, it wouldn't have happened. sinatra: when i found that ella and all of the black performers were living on the other side of the town, i began to make noise about it. i think a few other entertainers began to pick up on that, too, and they hollered. but i guess i was the biggest mouth in the town.
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white: we began to see people fighting for civil rights. yes, entertainers were part of that, in some cases. but i never want to hear anyone else say that frank sinatra integrated las vegas. it didn't just happen with that one act. the credit goes to the black community, who were here on the ground, agitating for integration and for better treatment every day. when integration takes place in 1960, dr. mcmillan, president of the naacp, does something that no one else does. he says, "if integration doesn't take place by march 25th, we are going to protest on the las vegas strip on a saturday night." las vegas does not want that kind of television coverage
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interfering with business. and integration takes place march 25, 1960. now, that is just the integration of public accommodations. so, they can spend their money now, but they don't get the jobs yet. geran: even though the gaming industry said, "we're gonna end segregation," that doesn't mean the attitude disappeared. the same people were still here, so it took time to get people to understand that minorities are not the enemy in this town.
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democrats agree. conservative republican steve garvey is the wrong choice for the senate. ...our republican opponent here on this stage has voted for donald trump twice. mr. garvey, you voted for him twice... as your own man, what is your decision? garvey is wrong for california. but garvey's surging in the polls. fox news says garvey would be a boost to republican control of the senate. stop garvey. adam schiff for senate. i'm adam schiff, and i approve this message. this election is about who shares your values. let me share mine. i'm the only candidate with a record of taking on maga republicans, and winning. when they overturned roe, i secured abortion rights in our state constitution. when trump attacked our lgbtq and asian
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neighbors, i strengthened our hate crime laws. i fought for all of us struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. i'm evan low, and i approve this message for all of our shared values. four, three, two, one! ♪ frank sinatra had been a big vegas entertainer since the early '50s. and in 1960, he was getting ready to shoot a movie called "ocean's eleven" in las vegas. day after tomorrow, gentlemen, we'll be in las vegas. he had enlisted a lot of his hollywood friends to appear in this caper film, and it was jack entratter at the sands
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who suggested some of the co-stars could come on stage with you at night when you do the show. you dirty rat. you get out of here! hey, you step on my suedes one more time... sure enough, five of them came on every night. frank, dean martin, sammy davis jr., joey bishop, and peter lawford. all of them in the film during the day, at night, going on stage at the sands hotel. davis: whoa, whoa, whoa! whoa! hey, what are you guys gonna try to do? get in on our applause? we don't need you fellas. just a minute, fellas. you've been on for a long time now. you'll have to leave now. [ laughter, applause ] weatherford: the rat pack was at the top of their game in las vegas. separately, any of them could have packed that small showroom at the sands. but you put them all together, and it was an event. [ laughter ] anka: they came at the right time, with the right stuff. sinatra and the rat pack were very much representative
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of what was emerging in our culture -- the coolness, how you dressed, you know, the swagger. their whole core, and what they were about, was perfect. it didn't get better than these guys. schwartz: the rat pack was so popular in vegas because they really spoke to that generation that had been through world war ii. at this point, they're the people coming to vegas. they have the money, and this was a comforting voice. you may be my leader, but i'm gonna punch you right in your mouth. ♪ every time i see you grin ♪ what happens? ♪ i'm such a happy individual ♪ little: they were just being silly on stage. and dean was such a great ad-libber that he would throw lines out and everybody would just roar. they were just like a bunch of kids fooling around. together: if all the women in texas were as ugly as your mama, the lone ranger gonna be alone for a long time.
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[ laughter ] reporter: when sammy davis is present, the humor often turns on race. and they're all pleased with the confidence they have in each other's disdain for bigotry. we don't need this? don't need that, sam. i thought it was separate but equal. [ laughter ] weatherford: the humor, if you listen to the live tapes now, is very cringe-worthy, especially the jokes directed at sammy. and you kind of forget that his very presence on that stage was groundbreaking in itself, that he was a peer of these guys. [ applause ] i'd like to thank the naacp for this wonderful trophy. [ laughter ] keep smiling, smokey, so everybody knows where you are. [ laughter ] davis: how is it that you're free enough to talk the way you're talking and be an entertainer? because the rationale is that if i'm black and an entertainer, i can't be too involved with black causes and survive in an industry controlled by white people. when i say this is a racist society in which we live in,
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everybody knows it is. that ain't no -- that ain't no big, big statement to make. but i then owe an obligation to my brothers and my sisters to let them know that it existed then, it still exists now, and i've been here for 40 years. white: sammy davis jr. wanted to be with frank sinatra and dean martin. they were the epitome of entertainment in that era, but it wasn't always the kind of entertainment that a mixed audience would have appreciated. it was appreciated by the audience that they performed for. and that was the white las vegas audience. ♪ why don't you fill my heart with song ♪ ♪ let me sing forevermore because... ♪ geran: in las vegas, everything has to do with the tourists.
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so, you still have segregation existing, and it didn't make sense. ♪ please be true ♪ geran: but as the country started changing, las vegas would change, too. ♪ ♪ in other words ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ you ♪ [ applause ] the las vegas showgirl was a unique specimen. weatherford: vegas probably hung onto its sexism longer than it should have. schumacher: the state of nevada was constantly vigilant about doing whatever it took to keep the feds out. reporter: for the mafia, las vegas is an open city. zoglin: elvis was the hottest thing in show biz. he changed rock 'n' roll. mckee: your heart's pounding, and you're getting this build up. he was at the top of his game again.


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